The Gaspee Affair – The British Schooner Gaspee was burned on 9 June, 1772

The road to liberty was hard. In American Revolution the “Gaspee Affair” sparked patriotism amongst colonists that laid a strong base for American Revolution in later years. Many historians urge the importance of Gaspee Affair in American Revolution for liberty. In 1772, a ship that belonged to the Queen was cleverly destroyed by colony men in order to seek revenge on taxation policies that looted the locals.

Events that led to the Gaspee Affair

British had fought hard for acquiring new colonies in Canada, West Mississippi river side and lands in Florida. And in order to defend their new lands British implanted stern tax policies on the American Colonies.  It was in 1764, that the new taxation policies hindered the trade of commerce in many places. One such place that was hit badly in terms of day to day trade was the Rhode Island.

Except the Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island was a small colony with limited source of trade and income. The residents of Rhode Island with their meagre income avoided paying exaggerated tax amount by smuggling goods to the ports. When the Royal Kingdom got a whiff of these illegal activities they commissioned a strict and loyal British, William Dudingston to check the trade activities in Narragansett Bay.

William Dudingston - Captain of HMS Gaspee

William Dudingston – Captain of HMS Gaspee

William Dudingston was infamous for capturing ships and boats that threatened the Royal Regulation of Trade and Commerce. He was also looting the ships that belonged to the sons of liberty for no apparent reason.

Bringing down the Gaspee

In 1772 on June 9 a schooner that belonged to the British forces called ‘HMS Gaspee’ was taken by William Dudingston to sail across Narragansett Bay to check upon illegal trade activities. There was a boat called Hannah that belonged to a small merchant from Rhode Island called Benjamin Lindsey. William spotted the boat and chased in order to seize the boat.

Burning of HMS Gaspee by the Revolutionaries

Burning of HMS Gaspee by the Revolutionaries

Benjamin Lindsey was clever enough to lead Gaspee to an area in sea that was shallow with low tide. It was famously known as Namquid point among the local fishermen. Gaspee was caught in the point and Hannah escaped the attack successfully.

Sensing the opportunity to rebel against British, John Brown a wealthy businessman gathered other men from the colony and set out to hunt the Gaspee. About sixty men sailed near the Gaspee and thankfully there were not seen in the dark night by William. As the men inched toward Gaspee to attack, William ordered his men to start the fire but the men took no chance and attacked William. As William was down with the blow, the sixty men took their revenge on the Royal Kingdom by looting the Gaspee and capturing the men in the ship. Finally the Gaspee was burnt to a


The significance of Gaspee Affair

The Gaspee Affair would have remained as a simple act of rebellion in the history but the aftermath of the incident laid a strong foundation to an independent America. There were no efforts done in covering up the act by the men. The sixty men were proud and did not deny the involvement. To add more insult to the British Government, none of the residents of Rhode Island acknowledged the event. A disappointed Royal Kingdom suggested taking the suspects to England for the court proceedings to which all of the local courts disagreed.

Suspects had no support or witness to gather if they were to be tried in England. Moreover colony men felt a deep disgust towards the King as they felt their rights for justice in the local court was violated. Media took use of this incident and Gaspee Affair was widely publicised. The British parliament was upset however, they could not punish the suspects. Such furore resulted in patriotic movement which helped the colony men to unite and fight for their liberty in later years.

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